Prince William to visit Israel this summer, in first official trip by UK royal
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President Rivlin: 'A very special guest for our 70th'

Prince William to visit Israel this summer, in first official trip by UK royal

Kensington Palace says Duke of Cambridge will also travel to Palestinian territories and Jordan; Netanyahu hails 'historic' visit

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, in Auckland, New Zealand in 2014. (Prince William and Kate Middleton image via Shutterstock).
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, in Auckland, New Zealand in 2014. (Prince William and Kate Middleton image via Shutterstock).

Prince William will travel to Israel this summer, in the first-ever official visit by the British royal family to the Jewish state, his residence declared Thursday.

While royals have traveled to Israel in the past, no member of the British monarchy has ever come to country on an official tour.

The official visit will be the first in Israel’s almost 70-year existence, during which time nearly every other country in the world has been visited by a representative of the Crown.

“The Duke of Cambridge will visit Israel, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the Summer,” Kensington Palace‏ announced on Twitter.

“The visit is at the request of Her Majesty’s Government and has been welcomed by the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities,” the statement added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the announcement of the upcoming trip by the second-in-line to the throne.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset on February 26, 2018.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“This is a historic visit, the first of its kind, and he will be welcomed here with great affection,” Netanyahu added. “I have ordered the Foreign Ministry director-general to coordinate preparations for the visit to ensure its success.”

President Reuven Rivlin said he and his wife Nechama were “happy” to hear the announcement and look forward to welcoming Prince William.

“A very special guest, and a very special present for our 70th year of independence,” he wrote on Twitter.

The visit was also applauded by the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush.

“We are delighted that in the year of Israel’s 70th anniversary, the Duke of Cambridge will be making the first official royal visit to the country,” Arkush said in a statement.

“This is something I have been calling for for a long time. The visit is testimony to the fact that the UK and Israel are key allies with a strong trading relationship and close cultural links. This visit will bring our two nations even closer together,” he added.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the announced visit to the Palestinian territories, which is also to be the first official trip there by a member of the British royal family.

“We look forward to contributing to strengthening the bonds of friendship between the two peoples,” a statement from the Palestinian presidency on official news agency WAFA said, calling the visit “important.”

Last year, a planned visit to Israel by Prince Charles, William’s father — said by a UK Jewish community leader to be planned for the summer of 2017 — was reportedly canceled by the Royal Visits Committee, the branch of the Foreign Office that coordinates trips on behalf of the royal family.

The Sun tabloid reported at the time that the visit was nixed in an apparent effort “to avoid upsetting Arab nations in the region who regularly host UK Royals.”

Prince Charles’s attendance at former president Shimon Peres’s funeral ​in 2016 ​and the funeral of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1994 were not considered official royal visits and did not include diplomatic meetings. The same was true of a brief 1994 visit by his father, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, to attend a ceremony commemorating his mother, Alice of Battenberg, who is buried on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.

While in Israel for Peres’s funeral, Charles also visited the Mount of Olives grave.

William is the elder son of Charles and the late Princess Diana. He is married to Kate Middleton, and is the father of two. The royal couple is expecting their third child in April. Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, is not scheduled to join William on the trip.

Prince Charles seen during the funeral late former President Shimon Peres at Mount Herzl, in Jerusalem, on September 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Poolp

On the sidelines of a climate change conference in Paris ​in 2016, Netanyahu reportedly invited Prince Charles to make an official visit to Israel, UK daily The Telegraph reported at the time, but this offer was reportedly swiftly rejected.

“Until there is a settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the royal family can’t really go there,” a British government source told the newspaper at the time. “In Israel so much politics is caught up in the land itself that it’s best to avoid those complications altogether by not going there.”

Israeli officials have bristled at royals’ unwillingness to come to the Jewish state, while they appear to have no qualms about visiting authoritarian states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in Jerusalem, on February 18, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In 2007 an aide to Prince Charles warned in an internal email leaked to the press that a visit by the prince would likely be used by Israel to try to boost its global standing.

“Safe to assume there is no chance of this visit ever actually happening?” deputy private secretary Clive Alderton wrote to private secretary Sir Michael Peat. “Acceptance would make it hard to avoid the many ways in which Israel would want [Prince Charles] to help burnish its international image.”

President Rivlin has issued several invitations for the British monarch or a representative to come to Israel, most recently in May 2017 during a meeting with visiting Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

“We would be happy to welcome a member of the royal family here in Jerusalem, especially marking 100 years since the Balfour Declaration,” the president said.

AP contributed to this report.

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